Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Whisky Friskey

“Whisky, frisky, hippity-hop, up he scampers to the tree top.”  When I taught pre-school years ago, my pint-sized pupils loved this finger play about a scampering squirrel.  Of course, they had to substitute their fingers for the squirrel and their other arm for the tree.  Watching them, I could see Whisky Frisky.

  Even before teaching pre-school, I was fond of squirrels.  My husband and I never begrudged squirrels the black-hulled sunflower seeds they artfully steal from the bird feeder.  In fact, we buy seed mixed with corn to keep squirrels coming.  We entertain ourselves watching these critters’ antics as they tease our dogs and antagonize birds while grabbing an easy meal.

Lately, we have had an exceptionally acrobatic squirrel visiting the feeders. We love watching him sneak down the old elm tree and dash the few feet necessary to climb to the platform feeder.  Taking possession, he shares with smaller squirrels or birds only when it suits this furry potentate.
 He eats until he has a sizable mound of empty shells beneath him. Then he checks to see that he can make a safe escape, zipping down the pole and up another elm with access to several tall cedar trees.  Once there, he retires to nap or scold, depending on his mood.

This Christmas we received a new feeder made of collapsible mesh with a metal top and bottom designed to hang from a branch in such a way to deter squirrels. Should is the operative word here.  At first, our fat, furry friend would sneak out to the edge of the branch where the feeder dangled.  He scoped out the possibilities and weighed the risks. Eventually, he decided to chance the tumble.

Carefully wrapping his hind feet around a slender branch, he maneuvered himself upside down over the feeder, easily by-passing the squirrel guard.  Once in position, he dug seeds from the mesh and gorged.  At first, he ate cautiously, but as his comfort increased, he was removing 20 -30 seeds per minute.   Some he ate.  Some he stored in ever-widening cheek pouches. He never noticed me timing him; he was so busy gobbling.

At first, he did slip off his branch a time or two, causing his human audience to gasp.  We made a point to keep the dog inside during our squirrel’s initial explorations into eating while dangling upside down.  Now he is so accomplished at dangling at a 90-degree angle to feast that neither he nor we worry about an accidental slip.  In fact, as I watched him recently, this squirrel tossed the sunflower seeds unopened to the ground and dug for tastier corn kernels, all while hanging upside down ten feet above the ground.  

At twice the size of other squirrels coming to our feeder, this one definitely dominates both feeders and nearby branches.  In any other circumstance, I’d think him a bully, but instead he’s our personal “Whiskey, Frisky with tail broad as a feather and tall as sail” and well worth the admission price of an extra bag of seed and corn. 

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